An important message about school safety



Henrico County Public Schools families,

In the week since the tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., we have received numerous requests for information about school safety. We are most appreciative of our community’s concerns, and we would like to address the following questions:

Where can I find detailed information about the school division’s approach to safety and security?

Information about safety and security in Henrico County Public Schools is always available. If you visit you will find detailed descriptions of the following:

  1. What to do in an emergency
  2. Personnel who support the school division’s safety efforts
  3. Required safety and security audits
  4. Our 11-page crisis manual covering topics from preparedness to recovery:

What is a crisis plan?

Every school has a crisis plan that follows “best practices” in school safety. The plans use a combination of guidelines created by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Department of Homeland Security and the Virginia Center for School and Campus Safety. Crisis plans are maintained by the school, updated regularly, and they are maintained in real time. Every school’s crisis plan is reviewed at least three times a year to ensure it is complete, thorough and updated.

Do safety plans differ from school to school?

Henrico County Public Schools is home to 72 schools and program centers. We believe that one centrally created crisis plan cannot adequately serve the needs of all schools. Each school’s crisis plan follows a template and is customized to meet the unique needs and characteristics of the campus. Virginia requires that all plans be completed and approved by the last day in September. In Henrico County, we take that a step further. We require that all plans be submitted, reviewed and approved by Henrico Schools’ Office of School Safety before the first student sets foot on campus at the beginning of the school year. The week prior to that, faculty and staff members complete emergency readiness training.

What kind of safety training do students and school employees receive?

Everybody (students, faculty and staff) takes part in training. Our drill schedule includes twice the number of active shooter drills required by Virginia. Evacuation drills are practiced from the classroom, cafeteria, library, gymnasium and auditorium. Reverse evacuation drills are practiced so that students who are outside can quickly return to the building and be accounted for. Additionally, we carry out fire drills and bus evacuation drills. When drills are complete, observers meet to debrief and try to identify the ways to improve.

What partnerships do you have with Henrico Police and Fire?

Every school has an assigned “School Resource Officer” who is a sworn officer with Henrico Police. Our SRO’s and other counterparts in public safety share their expertise as we develop and carry out our emergency readiness plans. They meet with us regularly to review plans and protocols, to brainstorm new ideas and to plan training exercises. We conduct comprehensive safety audits in one-third of our schools every year, and members of the audit team include police officers and firefighters.

What is a school safety audit?

Audits help schools meet today’s best practices in school safety. The audit process ensures schools are following their safety and crisis plans, including policies and protocols established by the School Board. A comprehensive audit cycle takes three years. This means one-third of the schools receive a comprehensive audit in a given year, and the remaining schools receive an interim audit. A comprehensive audit is a day-long event carried out by a team of subject-matter experts that include police supervisors, a fire marshal, and staff from the Henrico Schools’ offices of School Safety, Pupil Transportation, Technology, and Construction and Maintenance. Interim audits are conducted for the next two years to ensure that recommendations from the comprehensive audit are completed.

Additionally, the members of the safety audit team conduct three unannounced visits to each school every school year to ensure that security and visitor protocols are carried out with fidelity at all times. This includes ensuring that visitors are being “buzzed in” at the front office, that their identification is checked against the Virginia State Police Sex Offender Registry, and that visitor badges are displayed prominently at all times.

What can I do to help?

We want students and families to feel comfortable sharing information that is seen or heard in our school communities. School personnel are trained to locate the appropriate resources and access the necessary supports when school safety is in question. Individuals can also share tips online using the “Silence Hurts” link that is built into each individual school’s website.

What is the Office of School Safety?

Henrico County Public Schools has maintained a countywide Office of School Safety since 2008. The office is staffed with experienced employees who are fully dedicated to crisis planning and emergency readiness. In addition to bringing their own public safety, emergency management and school administration skills and experience to the table, the School Safety administrators routinely work with our partners in police, fire and mental health to provide our students, staff and visitors at all schools with a welcoming learning environment that maximizes safety. Education first, safety always.

What’s next?

School safety is one of the four cornerstones of Henrico County Public Schools. While we are proud of the work we do in school safety, we are never satisfied that we have done enough. We are always open to new ideas based on the experiences of others. We meet regularly with our school safety counterparts throughout Virginia to share ideas. Our goal is to understand and implement the present day’s best practices in school safety.

No school system can prevent every possible tragedy that may occur. But we know that with effective planning, training, and continuous improvement, Henrico County Public Schools is continuously striving to make our schools safer than they have ever been.


Michelle F. “Micky” Ogburn
Chair, School Board
Three Chopt District representative

Patrick C. Kinlaw

Feb. 21, 2018